The Distinction between Soma and Body
SOMATICS IS THE field which studies the soma: namely, the body as perceived from within by first-person perception. When a human being
is observed from the outside-i.e., from a third-person viewpoint-the phenomenon of a human body is perceived. But, when this same human
being is observed from the first-person viewpoint of his own proprioceptive senses, a categorically different phenomenon is perceived: the
human soma.
The two distinct viewpoints for observing a human being are built Into the very nature of human oh vation which is equally cap-abi**of being
internally self-aware as well as externally aware. The soma, being internally perceived, is categorically distinct from a body, not because the
subject is different but because the mode of viewpoint is different: It is immediate pro prioception-a sensory mode that provides unique data.

It is fundamental to recognize that die same individual is categorically different when viewed from a first-person perception than is the case

when he is viewed from a third-person perception. The sensory access is categorically different as are the resultant observations.
The categorical distinction be tween these two viewpoints estab lishes the ground rules for all studies of the human species. Failure to
recognize the categorical differ ence between first-person observa tion and third-person observation le '-■ to fundamental misunder standings
in physiology, psychology, and medicine.
Physiology, for example, takes a third-person view of the human being and sees a body. This body is an objective entity, observable,
analyzable, and measurable in the same way as any other object. The universal laws of physics and chem istry are brought to bear on this body,
because-as an observed body-it richly displays universal physical and chemical principles.
From a first-person viewpoint, however, quite different data are observed. The proprioceptive centers communicate and continually feed
back a rich display of somatic infor mation which is immediately self-observed as a process that is both unified and ongoing. Somatic data
do not need, first, to be mediated and interpreted through a set of universal laws to become factual. First-person observation of the soma is
immedi ately factual. Third-person observa tion, in contrast, can become factual only by mediation through a set of principles.
It should be understood that this difference in data is neither a differ ence in. truthful accuracy nor of in trinsic value. The difference is that
two separate modes of cognition are irreducible. Neither mode is less factual or inferior to the other: they are coequal.
Psychology, for example, takes a third-person view of the human being and sees a body of behavior. This bodily behavior is an objective
datum that is observable, analyzable, and measurable-as is any other behavioral datum. The universal laws of cause and effect, stimulus
and response, and adaptation are brought to bear on the behaving body, because-as an observed body-it richly displays these be havioral
But, from a first-person viewpoint, quite different data are observed. The proprioceptive centers communicate and feed back immediate
factual in formation on the process of the on going, unified soma-with the momentum of its past, along with the intentions and expectations
of its future. These data are already unified; they have no need to be analyzed, interpreted, and later formulated into a unitary factual
Medicine, for example, takes a third-person view of the human be ing and sees a patient (i.e., a clinical body) displaying various symptoms
that-when observed, analyzed, and interpreted according to universally known clinical principles-can be diagnosed, treated, and

But, from a first-person viewpoint, quite different data are observed. The proprioceptive centers communicate and feed back immediate
factual information on the continuous and unified past of the soma and its ex pectations for the future. The somatic appreciation of how this
past led to i)l health and how the future may restore-or not restore-health is essential to the full clinical picture. Ignorance of the first-person
view point is ignorance of the somatic factor that permeates medicine: the placebo effect and the nocebo effect.
Thus, the human being is quite unlike a mineral or a chemical solution in providing, not one, but two irreducible viewpoints for observation.
A third-person view point can only observe a human body. A first-person viewpoint can only observe a human soma-one's own. Body and
soma are coequal in reality and value, but they are categorically distinct as observed phenomena.
Somatics, then, is a field of study dealing with somatic phenomena: i.e., the human being as experienced by himself from the inside.
Reprinted from Somatics, Vol. V, No. 4 , Spring/Summer, 1986.


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